THE WELSH Assembly should introduce a new system of funding schools, a conference on the future of education in the principality heard last week.
There was "a myth about" that education spending in Wales was higher than in England, Keith Davies, director of education in Carmarthenshire, told delegates in Cardiff. But, although overall education spending in Wales had stayed roughly constant over the past five years, spending per pupil had fallen by about 10 per cent between 1993 and 1997 - much faster than in England.
And Pounds 40 million that should have found its way to Welsh schools this year had got lost, according to figures from the Audit Commission.
Mr Davies, who chairs Directors of Education in Wales, stressed the much higher proportion of small schools in Wales than in England and the great disparities in spending within the principality. A 20-pupil primary school might have a budget of only Pounds 51,000 in one LEA and Pounds 121,000 in another.
He joined in the calls for a fairer funding system to be introduced when the Welsh Assembly comes into being next May.
The conference, organised by the National Union of Teachers, heard John Atkins of Pricewaterhouse Coopers, the management consultants, outline a new system he and the union will be urging on the assembly.
He proposed a system under which the Welsh Assembly would "suggest" how much LEAs should spend on schools and then "suggest" how this should go to schools according to a national formula for the curriculum.
The formula should allow for small schools in rural areas and stop the potentially disastrous effects on budgets of "pupil poaching", perhaps by basing half the funding on the school's theoretical number of pupils and half on the actual number.
The 200 teachers and education officers at the conference also heard calls for Wales to have its own Teacher Training Agency -not, in the words of Keith Davies, "a sub-Post Office branch of the one in London".